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The Islamic State and the case for Responsibility to Protect
Do not let feelings toward past invasions in the Middle East deter us from protecting Syrians and Iraqis

Alex Bellamy 
Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
20 April 2015

With every new day comes a new revelation about the atrocity crimes committed by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). The United Nations now thinks it likely that the group committed genocide against Iraq’s ancient Yazidi population. It has also set out its stall to eradicate or “ethnically cleanse” Christians, Alawites, Shi’ites and moderate Sunnis who reject its extreme and idiosyncratic interpretation of Islam. IS is also waging a systematic war against women and girls, robbing them of their fundamental human rights, denying them an education, and condemning them to lives subject to violence and abuse.

IS is an organization that, as a matter of proudly held and publically proclaimed ideology, makes no distinction between soldiers and non-combatants. It makes blanket claims that peoples and individuals that fail to conform to its worldview are legitimate targets for killing. Theirs is a doctrine of selective extermination structurally similar to others we have seen in the past such as those espoused by the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge and other murderous regimes. The IS has shot, beheaded, knifed, bludgeoned, burned and tortured its unarmed victims – every one of these instances a crime against humanity, if not an act of genocide. It stands opposed to the values that sustain the community of humanity.

The Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, was created by world leaders in order to protect populations from atrocity crimes like those perpetrated by IS. It is a simple principle which holds that all states should protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity; that states should assist one another to achieve this goal; and that when a state manifestly fails to protect its population from these crimes, the international community should take timely and decisive action using all the instruments placed at its disposal by the UN Charter.

There can be no doubt that R2P establishes a responsibility to protect Iraqis and Syrians from IS.


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